San Luis Obispo
April 15th, 1870
My dear Sister,
My dear, I received a few days since yours of March 21st. Have received many others of your letters which I have not answered. I cannot give you a reason for my neglect, but only excuses. You remember that my poor father was always considered dilatory, and I believe that his mantle has fallen upon me. Further, I have had my full share of reverses and disappointments, and the cares of a constantly increasing family press on me with their full weight. But I do not wish you to think that any word of yours or of my dear mother has led to estrangement on my part. Any such idea would do me injustice. I have no complaint to make to any of you. On the contrary, in the intercourse between us, and in review of the relative fulfilment between us of our respective duties as brother & sister, son & father, son & mother, I am far more inclined to cry out "mea culpa", than to allege any failure on your part. I am particularly sensible of this in view of my long and persistent silence after the death of my dear father. It took me so by surprize that I did not know what to say or what to do. I felt that I had done wrong in not forcing an opportunity to go and see him before his death, and I felt that it was now impossible to repair the wrong committed. I did not know how to exculpate myself and on the top of this came reverse after reverse in my business arrangements. With all this, my increasing family has left me little time to think of anything beyond my daily cares and the habit of procrastination superadded has led me to put off and put off correspondence with you all, until my shame and constant importunity, manifesting on your part charity rather than exaction, force me to devote some time to that intercourse which never should have ceased between us.
I have another reason for writing you, which I desire to break to you as well as I can. Alexander is, in my estimation, dangerously ill. It is now nearly a month since he has been on the decline; for about 10 days he has been confined to his room. It is the general opinion here that his lungs are affected. This he has steadily resisted until now. I have several times urged him to submit to a medical examination. He has repeatedly told me that he would do so, as soon as he was cured of his cough. He has been very self-willed on this matter. Today the doctor examined him, and reports that he has a small abscess on the lung, which he can cure. I am in hopes that everything will come out right, but I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that Alexander is very weak, and has had several crises of his disease, which threatened bad results. He has long been in such a condition that any mooting of the matter before him, unless called for by his own remarks, has been insufferable to him. He steadily refuses to recognize that he had [has?] any very serious disease. I would, therefore, warn you not to say anything to him, manifesting any serious apprehension on your part, as it might have an ill effect upon his health. He has told me before that he had refrained from a medical examination so long because he deemed that to know anything which intimated danger would not have a salutary effect upon him. I therefore desisted from pressing him upon this subject. He has a good doctor and the best of attendance, including his wife, and a particular friend, who takes as great an interest in his welfare as I do myself. I have offered to attend him, whenever desired, and my wife, although nursing a child in arms, and burdened with a large family, is ready at any time to lend her aid. It is her nature, as I think she has as much of the milk of human kindness in her composition irrespective of claims of relationship, as any woman I ever knew.
Do not communicate this to my mother, as it might have an ill effect on her. I hope my brother will get well at once, but I do believe that if he should mend, he ought to seek some climate which is more suitable than this to his health. I have told him so, and he concurs; but he's so wrapped up in his business that he does not feel inclined to close it out at anything like a sacrifice. He is much better off than myself pecuniarily, and with no family other than his wife. Should he remove as I think he ought, to some Spanish American country, with his knowledge of the language and of the habits and customs of the natives, I should have no fear that he would do any worse in business than he has done here. He is a good business man; much better than I am. He, however, manifests much less self confidence than his pecuniary position and business qualifications warrant.
I send you a picture of my eldest boy, Walter. He was born in 1864 and is now more than six years old. He is a bright enough boy, can write his own name and spell and read a little. He attends the public school. I have all my family at home now. They all attend the public schools here, except Eliza, who has a sickness attendant upon her peculiar age, 16 years. I have had doctors here, and finally have sent her to some warm sulphur springs, which have done her much good. I hope that she will get over it. She has been troubled with fits, but I trust she will now get over them. They are consequent upon menstrual irregularity.
I shall write today to my mother, but shall not let her know anything in regard to Alexander's health, except that he is ill. I shall send her pictures of my two youngest children, Fanny and James Alfred. She will send them on to you and from that letter you will gather more particulars as to my position and prospects.
I have been for the last eight months publishing a weekly paper here. It is no emolument, but on the contrary is a drag upon my exertions. Its object has been more to strengthen myself and my part in this community than anything else. If it had not been for the fact that I was seeking the election to the office of District Judge, with a salary of $5000 per year, I should not have started it. It did me good service, as I managed to get a majority of 46 votes in my own county, in part from the assistance its wielding afforded me. I was beaten, however, by the vote of Santa Barbara county, where the native Californians were very strong; my opponent being the head-man of that blood in the State. He was a scion of old Spain, and repeatedly filling office in this state, to wit, those of State Senator, member of the Convention, Lieut. Governor, etc. He only beat me in the District by 49 votes, and would not have done that, had it not been by the brute strength of the native Californian vote, which went all against me. The Mexicans of my county supported me almost to a man.
I spent some money in traveling and the necessary expenses during the election and would have won the fight had I spent a little money in bribery. I could not do this, which is customary, and so had to succumb. This I cannot help, and have submitted with as good a grace as I could.
I will mail you a few copies of my paper today, and will send it regularly to you, if you desire it. It would give you a better idea of my position than anything I could write you, unless I should be a far more attentive correspondent than I have been. I should be glad to receive in return for my Walter's picture, one of yours. You will see that the photograph is not well taken, which arises from the fact that we never have any good artists in this place. Those I shall send to my mother bear the same criticism. I shall not be able to write her tonight, but will tomorrow.
Give my respects to your husband. I hope he is improving in health. My love also to the children. My wife and family send you their best regards. Now that correspondence has been reopened on my side, do not neglect me, although I confess that I deserve it. I am glad to say that my wife has just returned from Andrea's and says that Alexander is better.
We have had a very nice warm day today. I have an acre of barley up a foot high, which I intend to cut for hay. This will give you some idea of the mildness of our climate.
I enclose you first [=bills?] of exchange for £19/12, which I purchased nearly a year ago to send to my mother. You can judge from that how far my dilatoriness has extended. Please forward it to her, and tell her to use it for her needs, and not to sacrifice any of her property. I ought to have sent it before. I will write to her fully about the children, etc.
Goodbye, my dear Anne, remember me kindly to Fanny and her family, and believe me ever
Your affectionate brother